National Love Your Body Day, but Not for Queen Latifah

Laurie and Debbie say:

First of all, in honor of Love Your Body Day, we present you with one of our (many) favorite pictures from Women En Large.

Laurie's portrait of Queen T'hisha

Second, in opposition to Love Your Body Day, Queen Latifah, star of stage and screen, has sold out to the diet industry. Until this week, it was hard to name a better role model for fat women (and especially for fat African-American women) than Queen Latifah. Fine actress, superb singer, smart, funny, successful. So it was almost heartbreaking to see this. We can’t bring ourselves to reproduce the ad for her new album, but here’s some of the text.

We felt my Traveling Light Tour would be a great opportunity to educate my fans about something that’s important to me. Diabetes plagues so many people today, especially in the African- American community. In fact, I lost my great-grandmother to this disease that we now know is preventable through the very thing Jenny Craig provides…

Did you know that – if you’re overweight – losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can lower the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58 percent? It’s true! And taking even the smallest steps – including eating more healthfully and increasing your activity a little each day – can significantly improve your health.

For more info – check out the Jenny Craig program

Love and embrace those beautiful curves girl, just make sure you’re healthy and happy, too!

This is an especially disturbing mishmosh of fact, fantasy, and falsehood.

What’s true: Diabetes does plague a lot of people, and a great many African-Americans. It does seem that losing a few pounds can help either prevent or minimize diabetes. Small steps can affect major health gains.

What’s fantasy: Jenny Craig is not in the business of helping African-American women (or any women) love their curves and lose a few pounds. Jenny Craig is in the business of keeping American women on a miserable diet for as long as they can, loosening the leash until they regain the weight, and then pulling them back in to spend more money and be more miserable.

A nutritionist reports on Jenny Craig meals:

About one third of the calories in this diet come from foods you supply (nonfat dairy, fruits, and vegetables). The foods you provide are definitely the healthiest part of this diet plan.

The overall plan is very low in fat … and way too high in refined sugar. The sample menu provided 70 grams of sugar–almost a quarter of the total calories! Experts recommend that you keep sugar to fewer than ten percent of daily calories.

The ingredient lists were also unimpressive, dominated by additives, artificial ingredients, added sugars, and hydrogenated oils (i.e., transfats). Vegetables, when there were any, tended to cluster way down on the bottom of the list.

Like most diet industry stalwarts, Jenny Craig gives some lip service to the unending proofs that most diets fail. Instead of talking about a pure weight-loss program, they talk about “a healthy relationship with food” and “a life in balance.” Again, what they mean is, “We know you won’t lose much weight, but we’re hoping you’ll lose enough that when you gain most of it back, you’ll come back to us instead of going to one of our competitors.” And, of course, “We hope you love Queen Latifah and want to do what she says.” They certainly know that most dieters end up gaining back all but a few pounds of what they lose: but their ads show movie stars who have lost 75 pounds and kept them off (with movie star staffs and finances to help) and then say “Results not typical.” This, of course, makes people who are drawn to Jenny Craig and similar programs feel like failures when they don’t lose 75 pounds and keep them off.

What’s falsehood: Well, for starters, the Jenny Craig “Weight Loss Industry Fact Sheet” still says that 325,000 deaths a year are attributed to obesity. That number was reduced to 25,000 in 2005. They’ve had plenty of time to update.

For another piece, the last thing a diabetic or prediabetic person should be eating is prepared foods that are high in sugar. If you want to eat prepared foods that are high in sugar and transfats and preservatives, you can save a lot of money eating at McDonald’s (where you will also get enough fat in your diet to at least feel full).

Finally, and perhaps most infuriating, is the Latifah/Jenny Craig sop to fat women–“Love and embrace those beautiful curves, girl.” It’s hard enough to love your body in this body-hating culture. It’s harder still to love your fat body in this fat-hating culture. It’s damned near impossible to love your body when you are surrounded by people whose only goal in life is–no, not to help you be thinner–to make sure you keep hating the fact that you aren’t thinner. And that’s what any diet/weight loss industry people are doing.

Queen Latifah is doing herself, her community, and all of us a profound disservice. We have to wonder what she’s getting paid to say “buy Jenny Craig” instead of “eat fruits and vegetables, exercise, and love and embrace those beautiful curves,” otherwise known as “health at any size.”

Remember, it’s Love Your Body day.

Kell at Disturbing Brew broke the Queen Latifah story; Serene Vannoy reminded us that it’s Love Your Body Day.

fat, Love Your Body Day, size acceptance, health at every size, diets, Queen Latifah, Jenny Craig, weight loss industry, diet industry, Body Impolitic